The Business Profit Time Horizon

There are countless perspectives in the business world. The one we are most familiar with and where we spontaneously go when looking for solutions to business problems, is of course our own. But that represents only a small part of the overall picture. Being able to project yourself into someone else’s shoes expands your thinking and helps fill in the puzzle of reality. It is a very useful skill, but extremely hard to do on a regular basis. Honing this art will be extremely helpful as you look to successfully navigate a large company and get things done / change things.

There’s a side benefit as well. You will enrich your own development and round out something that is a requirement to advance to the next level.

One of the tricks I use to help me transport into another’s mind is to try to identify their business profit time horizon. In other words, is their perspective being filtered through a short term, mid term or long term lens? Generally the higher you go in an organization the shorter the profit time horizon becomes (yes profit, because it’s a business). On the surface it seems counterintuitive because leaders at the most senior level are suppose to be visionaries. True enough, but they know if they don’t meet short-term profit goals it won’t matter, because there won’t be long term anyway.

Firms have reporting levels for numerous reasons. One of them is to ensure that bright, focused minds can thrive. Another is to ensure no one person, perhaps working in a vacuum, initiates work. Perspectives are drawn into the discussion and the end result is most often far superior to the original thought (wisdom of the crowd). Senior managers want to know four things. When am I getting it? How much does it cost? What’s it worth? How can you scale it?

Time Horizon Rule of Thumb

  • If you’re a CEO you are trying to close the week
  • CMO’s are looking to close the month
  • The VP’s want to deliver a positive outcome for the quarter
  • This leaves it to the Directors to look at an entire year or beyond

Keeping this construct in mind when I’m working on an idea is helps me anticipate other perspectives. It also reminds me why people make the comments they make when I describe my ideas. What are your ways you break out of your walled garden?

Take Social Media Stealth, At Least for Now

I’ve been following interesting discussions lately about the use of the word Media in Social Media. Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research takes his usual professorial approach (that’s a compliment Josh). He points out that media evokes advertising which is one way, but all social web sites/technologies are two way. He offers a number of other insights and ways to refer to Social Media in his blog post Why Social Media Sucks here. Reading the conversations brought to mind some other concerns some of my peers are facing.

Much of the debate stems from the attention Social Media is beginning to receive from senior managers inside large companies. We have been spending the better part of a year trying to get their attention and trumpeting the value of Social Media and the need to enter this space. Of course when you ask for attention you will ultimately receive it. A favorite quote comes to mind, Goodness by the inch invites evil by the yard. Getting the mind share of execs in your firm is a double-edged sword for sure. They will want to know more…

  • Because they have heard about the missteps made by some brands and want to see if they might be next
  • Which means they will have ideas and perhaps, dare I say it, tinker
  • So they can understand the expense dollars and staff time being placed against it
  • Give their personal perspective thumbs up or down sign

radarscreenAll of these things are completely fine, especially the financial curiosity; after all they have a business to run. But as was pointed out in a recent Forrester report, three-fourths of firms polled said their Social Media budget is less than $100,000 annually. That’s small by most large company standards, but in this economic climate nothing escapes scrutiny. Those reported expenses are services purchased dollars and does not include FTE. Now that we’ve got the C’s leaning in it’s time to reduce altitude and fly under the radar.

  • Get your modest budget approved and protected through the rest of the year (important safety tip: stick to it)
  • Ring fence your people resources to as few as possible
  • Carefully choose who else you engage, don’t overburden other stretched teams (especially IT)
  • Leverage everything you’ve already built over the last year
  • Develop your established properties; you’ve probably got lots of opportunity there
  • Report progress and milestones only to your department head, letting her decide how and when to pass it on
  • As I’ve said in previous posts, think and act like a start-up. Be scrappy and lean

We’ve been exploring alternate terminology to the Social Media handle in my company. Don’t do this in a vacuum, as the choice should largely depend on your organization’s structure and how they think about channels. Look for successful case studies within your own firm where groups have changed their name and it has been viewed as positive. Avoid being seduced by the latest buzzwords. This is one you need to work on from the inside out. I could reel off a laundry list of labels but you probably have already thought of them and could add 10 more.

My potential best advice is to not name it at all. More of an exercise in subtraction vs. adding other terms you have to explain. If you are called E-Commerce today in your firm, then you’ve already got your name. Social Media is just another thing you take care of.

I believe this is a temporary state for Social Media. As the economy begins to rebound you will be able to pull back on the stick and ascend to cruising altitude. When you’re back on the radar screen the C’s will say, “Well done.”